Good Neighbors

"Accidental" Food Bank Started By Two Friends Serves Thousands

You have to hear the story of how their "accidental" activism got started. Now they feed over 24K people per year!


John Tierney and Stu McNeil didn't set out to be do-gooders in their community. It just sort of happened.

The two visited a Stop and Shop grocery store in North Andover, MA ten years ago to pick up some supplies for a community coffee group they both belonged to. The store manager was about to throw away a bunch of food that was nearing its expiration date. What he told the men as they stood in line would change their lives, forever.

"He goes, I'm throwing three to four dumpsters of food away a month," McNeil told WBZ-TV . "He goes, it's killing me. It just breaks my heart to do it."

Right then and there, the Accidental Food Bank was born. Tierney (pictured below) and McNeil, who were recent retirees at the time, started going to the Stop and Shop to pick up food donations and deliver them to veterans groups, senior centers and food banks in the area.

The organization has grown since then, and the duo is still at it. They show up five to six days per week to pick up food from three grocery stores that's approaching its sell-by date.

And just so you know, there's actually a difference between an item's "sell-by" date and its expiration date, as explained by McNeil to Carl Stevens on a recent episode of Stevens' podcast .

"There's a big difference between sell by date and expiration date. In fact, the state of Massachusetts is now changing some of the laws for it. They'll say canned goods, the past due date is good for another year past that date, that's official state protocol."

The food bank is run entirely by Tierney and McNeil, who joked that they've both ruined their cars from all of the loading and driving they've done over the years.

"I killed a car, basically," McNeil said. "We both did. He killed a Toyota, I killed a Volvo. Now we're on our second vehicles."

But all of the hard work is worth is to make sure the community is fed. It's estimated that the Accidental Food Bank serves about 24,000 people each year, and the two friends are not planning on quitting anytime soon.

"You turn around and see the need out there, it's just incredible," McNeil said. "My heart goes out to these people, and all I want to do is help them," John added.

To learn more about the Accidental Food Bank, you can check out their Facebook page .

(Source: images Accidental Food Bank Facebook )

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